"Crashing" a party

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Friday 9 AM. I press the snooze button on my alarm clock multiple times -- fighting lack of sleep -- and finally wake up at 10. Adrienne and I are putting red extensions (yeah, girl stuff) in my hair before I go out to face the day.

With my new 'do, and some really typically English weather (cold, rainy), I take the short trot to the team hotel. To my dismay I catch them en route about two blocks from their destination. After I spontaneously pulled a "Kloppo" (shaking my fists and screaming "Jaaaaaaa!"), I had to high-tail it after the bus, down the street, and to the hotel.

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When I arrive, players are walking in to the hotel with heads down, and not giving autographs or picture opportunities, so sadly, my Trikot would have to be signed another day. All business on the Bayern front, however, was strangely gratifying. I would gladly give up a scribble across my kit -- as would any Bayern supporter -- for a win Saturday.

Realizing the press conference was at Wembley, instead of the hotel, Steve and I ventured off to the UEFA Champions Experience. Cold and wet, I still managed to squeal when I saw Bayern's mascot Berni -- our first photo experience of the day.

The glitter of the Champions League trophy came next, and queue-ing up in a very long line; we waited. Then we waited some more. With ample time to replace our beers -- twice, we'd still be waiting as we watched a Chelsea supporter ask for a picture with a Suedkurve couple. Eventually we'd get out of line, as Paul Breitner was signing autographs.

Yes. Paul Breitner. He was shorter than I expected, in his heyday his hair added on an additional three inches! He was wonderful, taking the time to chat with everyone who was gaga at the prospect of shaking hands with a German legend. Somehow, I managed to speak flawless German the whole time, and he complemented me knowing I was American: "You're German is lovely." My heart actually fluttered.

But the highlight of my night was "crashing" the BvB party at the Albany. As I walked inside -- wearing no Bayern colors (except for my hair) -- I'd glance around frantically for my media friends -- all the ones who happen to support Dortmund. It was a lovely party, despite my feeling ill-at-ease, and got to say hello to old friends Matt Hermann and Uli Hesse, and a new one in Jon Hartley. Even got a minute to chat with Stephan Uersfeld, before the bar closed decidedly too early for my taste.

A few of us would carry on, but Jon and I would be the last ones standing, ending up having a chat about the match, and both clubs in general. We agreed on Uli Hoeness having to leave the club after this season; although neither of us want him to go. Perhaps the most striking thing he said, however, is that the Dortmund side are not talking about winning, they are talking about not losing. It's subtle, for sure.

And as I took the cab ride home -- at three in the morning -- my cabbie Steve, struck by an American woman here to watch and write about the football, and I got in to a lively discussion. "I like your team, a lot," he said, "Strange that I'm paying attention to German football. But, I'm paying attention to German football!"

We went on to discuss who we thought would win (obviously!) and how it might all go down, each of us surprised by the other's knowledge of the two sides. And I was paying my fare in front of the hotel, he asked me, "Susie, how do all the Germans feel about being here in London?"

"Well, I've run across more than a few Brits that think it's shameful that two German teams are playing here in the Final," I said, "But, I think you're referencing all the anti-German chants, and that whole war business..."

Steve said he was, and wondered if the perception is reversed. I told him, "You know, 'Two World Wars' and 'Ten German Bombers'? Well, although you consider us enemies. We don't consider you the same. Eh. You've got '66. And we don't have any anti-English chants."

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